Sunday, 21 July 2013

French Regulations

Forgive me, regular readers, if this post seems a little removed from my usual scribbling. You’ll recall, the whole object is to show, through my experiences, that it is possible to get afloat on a reasonably comfortable and sound cruising boat for a modest outlay. The main strategy is to replace costly bills with DIY, essentially exchanging ‘time’ of which I have a great deal for ‘money’  a commodity more rare these days since I took an early exit from mainstream work.

To date things have gone reasonably well although I have to admit that I have had to invest a good deal more time than I had originally envisaged.

Another aspect to the strategy however has been to reduce costs wherever possible in order to divert precious resources to the boat project. This plan has been severely compromised recently due to French Bureaucracy.

Let me start at the beginning and, if you find reading about a non-boating subject boring, then please move on now and catch me at a later post where I hope to feel sane enough to return to the main subject.

So, one way to reduce costs is to run only one car and substitute the second car for a much more economical means of transport – a 50cc Vespa scooter, which gives me almost 100 miles for a gallon (5 Litres) of petrol. So far so good. I bought the vehicle new in Jersey (Channel Islands) and brought it to France when I moved here last year. Now, you’re allowed to run a Jersey Vespa in France for a while (as a tourist would run his car) but after a while you have to register the vehicle in France.

OK, first stop is the French customs. The Vehicle was purchased outside of the EU – so I have to pay 20% of its value to the French Government as a sort of import tax. I have no problem with this – pay unto Caesar etc! I must say though, that a few alarm bells began to ring when I noticed that they still use carbon paper!

Having duly paid the tax the customs officers directed me to the Sous Prefecture at Dinan to have the vehicle registered with an appropriate French number plate. Without this I cannot insure (and therefore drive) the vehicle.

On arrival at the Sous Prefecture, I was told that Dinan was the wrong town and that I should go to the Sous Prefecture at St Malo. On arrival there, I was told that there was a long queue and I should return very early in the morning on another day.  Alternatively I could post all the documentation to the main Prefecture office at St Brieu (a good distance away). The bureaucrat in St Malo advised me that all the paperwork I had was correct.

I sent the documents to St Brieu and two weeks later the papers were returned with a note to say that a document was missing. No name, no contact, no number to phone – just a scribbled refusal

Through friends and internet research I was able to identify the document which was only available via the tax office in Dinan. There I was met by an official who explained he was very busy and asked if I could return in half an hour. Later when he understood the situation he struggled to understand why St Brieu had demanded this particular document but he agreed to supply it in any case. He obtained all the information he needed to complete this new form by referring to the portfolio of information I had originally supplied. There was nothing on the new form, no new information.

Anyway, armed with that, I again sent the documentation to St Brieu only to have everything returned because the vehicle didn’t have a certificate of conformity with European standards. IT’S A VESPA FOR GODDSAKE made in ITALY and sold all over Europe! Are they going to produce a special non conforming edition to sell to the couple of hundred souls who may want one on the tiny (9X5mile) Island of Jersey?

Now I have to send a request to Italy for a certificate of conformity so that I can send it to the Bureaucrats in St Brieu – with luck I’ll get the Vespa back on the road sometime in September, unless of course, they dream up some other form for me to complete. Meanwhile, the car remains my only form of powered transport and the Vespa sits in the barn.

This, by the way, is only one small example French State administration. I could write a pretty thick book on how, I had to produce nine copies of a file of documents in order to obtain confirmation that planning permission was not required for a planned extension to my house. If I had needed planning permission I don’t know how many forms would have been required.

I love France and her people - but I’ve never encountered such a centralised and bureaucratic State administration anywhere in the western world. Given their history of revolution and republicanism, given their love of individualism and freedom – I think the average French citizen deserves better than this!